Today, on this 13th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, we stop to recognize the transgender individuals who have fallen victim to transphobic hate violence in the past year and years past.
To continue losing these members of our family to senseless, bigoted violence is a national tragedy. While we continue to make progress on the civil rights and safety of transgender and gender non-conforming individual—such as the Massachusetts’ legislature recent passage of a transgender civil rights bill—we must call attention to the severe, devastating inequalities facing transgender and gender non-conforming Americans across what should be the land of the free. In New York State, we have yet to follow the 16 states which have gone before us in passing a gender expression non-discrimination bill. In our state, we still have New Yorkers who are denied the status of protected class, and discriminated against in housing, employment and credit among other areas. These inequalities, that transgender and other gender non-conforming people are not treated and protected equally under the law, must and will be addressed, so that we may all do everything we can to stop the loss of any transgender person to hate violence again.
“As Stonewall Democrats, we remain committed to working tirelessly to achieve the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in NYS and, ultimately, an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) at the federal level,” said Bryan Ball, SDWNY president. “The loss of our people, the members of our LGBTQ family, who we remember on this 13th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, can never be amended. In the face of such unspeakable violent tragedy, it is often difficult to find positive action we must take. But we must honor the memory of these individuals, and work to achieve full transgender and gender expression civil rights, so that we may do all we can to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.”
We invite you to join the WNY LGBTQ community on Monday night, November 21, for our Transgender Day of Remembrance Service. The service will be held in Buffalo, at Buffalo United Artists, 119 Chippewa, beginning at 7PM.
Now is an exciting time for LGBTQ civil rights in New York State. With the passage of Dignity for All Students last year, and Marriage Equality only this past summer, the future for the Gender Expression-Non Discrimination Bill in NYS is bright.
Here in Western New York, SDWNY and our great community of advocates have been actively lobbying all our state senators—and having an open dialog regarding the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination. As part of our lobbying, we have been running our GENDA letter campaign, focusing on the State Senate. If you have been one of the many who have signed one of our different form letters or taken the time to write a handwritten note to your legislators, we thank you. If you have not, or are willing to go the extra step and gather more signatures and notes for equality, we encourage you to download the letters below, print them out, gather signatures and send them into your State Senator. However, SDWNY is ready and able to help with mailing, and we encourage you to contact us (by email or calling 716-541-5557) should you wish us to come pick up your letters and notes and mail them to our Senators.
All information collected on this letter project is stored in an individual database. Each Senator receives a letter, and the database will only be used when it is know the legislation is coming to a vote in the Senate. You may receive an email and/or a phone call, letting you know a vote is coming and asking you to put a phone call into your Senator’s office asking him or her to support this legislation.
If your Senator is Sen. Kennedy, please thank him for championing the GENDA bill. If your senator is Sen. Mark Grisanti, please thank him for his heroic support of Marriage Equality and ask he come out to support transgender civil rights for all New Yorkers, as well.
In the midst of all the excitement over the passage of marriage equality in New York, transgender people wonder about the future of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).
When gays and lesbians won civil rights in New York in 2002 with the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), that legislation ignored a two-year effort by trans activists and some State Senate Democrats to broaden its language to include protections based on gender identity and expression.
So, in December 2002, trans people and the leadership of the AIDS services group Housing Works created GENDA. No one knew how to pass gender identity-only legislation, but a small group of people were willing to try.
After five years of effort and an awkward reconciliation with the Empire State Pride Agenda, the gay and lesbian lobby group that steered SONDA to victory, the GENDA bill first passed the State Assembly in 2007, in a push led by Manhattan Democrats Dick Gottfried, Deborah Glick, and Daniel O’Donnell. The measure passed again two years later, in 2009, and once more this year.
With the election of a Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, in 2006, there was hope among trans people that their time had come. When the Democrats became the majority in the Senate in 2009, those hopes grew larger.
But the bill was badly handled last year by John Sampson, then the Senate majority leader, in his own Judiciary Committee and failed to move to the floor for a vote. Both he and Tom Duane, the out gay Chelsea Democrat who has spearheaded all the LGBT legislation in the Senate, said certain Republicans had promised to vote yes, but reneged under the glare of the media. Trans people were furious because everyone knew that marriage equality was on the horizon for 2011, and it would be very hard for trans people to be heard in a marriage year.
So, while there is a revolution for gays and lesbians in New York that reverberates across America and around the world, trans people in New York State, outside of New York City, Suffolk County, Ithaca, and few upstate counties can still be fired because of their gender identity or expression, can still be arrested if accused of using an incorrect bathroom or locker room, can be still be thrown out of their homes if a landlord is offended by witnessing a sometimes slow process of gender transition, and can still be forced to be mis-gendered by doctors and hospitals.
For transgender and transsexual people in New York, the expanding freedoms afforded gays and lesbians still feel far away.
In the early 2000s, gay lobby leaders told trans people to focus on city and county legislation, and then work up to the state level. Since none of us had any experience in lobbying for stand-alone transgender causes, that approach seemed to make sense. In fact, in New York City, Local Law 3, giving transgender people equal protection in our city, was signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in early 2003, after winning overwhelming support in the City Council. It was a wonderful moment.
Ironically, the legal protections we have in the city make us less effective as lobbyists for GENDA. Senators want to hear from their own constituents, not from activists who live in New York City.
In the State Senate, the only New York City members not in favor of GENDA are the same ones who voted no on marriage –– Democrat Reuben Diaz, Sr., of the Bronx, and Republicans Martin Golden of Brooklyn and Andrew Lanza of Staten Island. Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, is an unknown. For the most part, though, city transgender people have done their job.
We need to hear voices from Long Island, the Hudson Valley, the state’s Southern Tier, the North Country, and Western New York, because the senators who represent those areas are currently the solid no votes on trans civil rights.
Still, the votes required for passage exist. As of the beginning of last month, there were 32 yes votes, counted informally, out of 62 Senators –– a majority, and more votes than marriage equality had when Governor Andrew Cuomo and advocates decided to press for a vote on that issue on June 13.
But the majority leader, Long Island Republican Dean Skelos, controls the agenda in the Senate, so GENDA was parked in the Rules Committee, which he controls, where it sat until time ran out on 2011’s regular session.
Opponents of this bill feel no particular pressure about GENDA, since they rarely see trans lobbyists and 2011 was, in an event, very focused on marriage. Some senators previously unattuned to LGBT rights are willing to take risks on gay and lesbian families in their districts and even gay and lesbian relatives in their families, but they find it more difficult to relate to transgender people. The willingness of gay and lesbian New Yorkers to come out and be visible has been a great strength for their community; the trans journey is much more difficult and fraught with obvious danger.
For transgender people, the GENDA campaign for 2012 starts right now. The same coalition that believes in the rights of gays and lesbians believes in the rights of transgender people to exist, to be educated, to work, and to have lives as happy New Yorkers. But we need more trans people out talking to legislators and educating them. We need to try to duplicate the effort for marriage, putting aside past differences and rivalries to come together with a singular voice.
But as trans activists mobilize, will the progressive and queer rights movements move on? Will focus shift instead to labor issues, or women’s rights, or housing –– questions that affect broad swaths of New York’s population?
We have repeatedly been told to elect more progressive state senators. We did that in 2006 and 2008, and yet we still failed. How many progressive senators are needed to pass trans rights in New York?
2012 will mark a decade in the struggle to enact transgender civil rights in New York State separate from the earlier push to include trans protections in gay rights legislation. Most of the people who started the effort have moved on with their lives. The younger activists are uncomfortable with the bill; they feel that it will not help everybody and, by incorporating the harsher penalties in the state’s hate crimes law, even hurt some. Many transsexuals live hidden, stealth lives, and are not willing to risk the safe, stable lives that they have created.
Next year also includes a presidential election, as well as races for all federal and state legislative seats. It will be a very busy political cycle.
And so we plan and meet and ponder and wonder, and look to our friends and colleagues and the new kids. We hope for the best. Soon, we still say, our time will come.
Melissa Sklarz is director of the New York Trans Rights Organization (NYTRO). " http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2011/07/07/gay_city_news/community/doc4e16335ea334b185398708.txt
Today, Gov. Cuomo continued to make good on his promise of passing Marriage Equality for New York State, by introducing the Marriage Equality Act to the NYS Senate and Assembly (READ the bill here.)
Yesterday, Sens. Carl Kruger, Joseph Addabbo and Shirley Huntley announced their support for civil rights, bringing the entire Senate Democratic conference to support equality, with only one exception. And in the last 24 hours, two Senate Republicans have announced their support of the bill. We commend Sens. Jim Alesi and Roy McDonald for having the courage to be the first of their Republican conference to take a stand for civil rights.
Now is the time to keep acting! We need to keep the pressure on Albany to pass the bill and make Marriage Equality law. Today, WNY Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) announced he was now undecided, rather than opposed. After months of lobbying by SDWNY, Outspoken for Equality and local open and affirming clergy, Sen. Grisanti is now undecided. Call him now at 716-854-8705 and let him know the true, incredible support civil marriage rights have in his district!
Sen. Pat Gallivan (R-Elma) has been another one of SDWNY and Outspoken’s focuses during the past several months. He also needs to keep hearing the incredible support Marriage Equality has in his district! Call him now at 716-656-8544!
We have never been closer to Marriage Equality! We would not be here if it were not for the hard, dedicated work of you and all our Stonewall Democrats.
If Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) is your senator, call him at 716-826-2683 and thank him for the support he has for Marriage Equality becoming law!
Also, please remember to thank our pro-equality Assemblymembers who have championed Marriage Equality, such as Assemblymember Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo) 716-885-9630 at and Assemblymember Mark Schroeder (D-Buffalo) at 716-826-0152.
Today also brought fantastic news for the GENDA legislation, as the bill passed the Assembly once again. Please, in your phone calls for Marriage, thank the Assembly for passing GENDA and urge the Senate to follow suit!
Photo: Bryan Ball, Artist of piece: Kitty Lambert
Now is an exciting time for LGBTQ civil rights in New York State. Following last year’s election, when the Republicans regained control of the State Senate, many LGBTQ and allied New Yorkers were disappointed as to the future of Marriage Equality and Gender Expression Non-Discrimination in New York.
But things are looking better. Governor Cuomo has been an incredible, staunch advocate for advancing—and passing—both the Marriage and GENDA bills in the state legislature. High profile national and state LGBTQ advocacy groups have formed a united voice in New Yorkers United for Marriage, and they are beginning an advertising campaign, which hopes to culminate with a vote on the Marriage bill in the legislature during the very near future.
Here in Western New York, SDWNY and Outspoken for Equality has, with our great community of advocates, been actively lobbying all our state senators—and having an open dialog regarding the issues of Marriage and Gender Expression Non-Discrimination. As part of our lobbying, we have been running our Marriage letter campaign, and recently begun our GENDA letter campaign, focusing on the State Senate. If you have been one of the hundreds who have signed one of our different form letters or taken the time to write a handwritten note to your legislators, we thank you. If you have not, or are willing to go the extra step and gather more signatures and notes for equality, we encourage you to download the letters below, print them out, gather signatures and send them into your State Senator. However, SDWNY is ready and able to help with mailing, and we encourage you to contact us (by email or calling 716-541-5557) should you wish us to come pick up your letters and notes and mail them to our Senators.
All information collected on this joint letter project between SDWNY and Outspoken for Equality is stored in an individual database. Each Senator receives a letter, and the database will only be used when it is know the legislation is coming to a vote in the Senate. You will receive an email and phone call from Outspoken for Equality, letting you know a vote is coming and asking you to put a phone call into your Senator’s office asking him or her to support this legislation.
I write regarding the civil rights movement, and how it continues with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community’s road to equality. Now is an important time for civil rights, and this past year saw triumphs that furthered our community’s equality.
In the City of Buffalo, our Common Council took action to protect its citizens. It passed legislation establishing a domestic partnership registry for the city and extending partner benefits to city employees in same-gender partnerships. This is an important action, as New York State currently discriminates in more than 1,000 rights and protections that a civil marriage provides to couples and families based on gender.
Marriage equality is needed legislation and will afford families the protections of hospital visitation, health insurance and home protection. Marriage equality will provide a civil right to citizens, and infringe on no one’s right to practice or preach the teaching of any religious dogma.
Our State Legislature also passed the Dignity for All Students Act, which protects all of our children from bullying in schools. While the LGBTQ community is ever-advancing in terms of acceptance, we must never neglect the plight of countless LGBTQ children who grow up in intolerant environments. As the recent highly publicized suicides of young LGBTQ individuals tragically highlighted, there is a crucial need for children to be protected from the forces of hate.
Each one of us who believes in the cause of the civil rights movement, alongside our elected officials, must make it known publicly and in our private lives that individual identity is not something to be hated, and that even in the worst of situations, it gets better and there is a life and world out there for our children that will embrace, accept and treat them equally under the law.
Also, in Washington, Congress finally repealed the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ensuring that no one in our military is denied the opportunity to serve our country honestly and with dignity.
However, much work remains. There are no federal protections from employment discrimination for LGBTQ Americans, and our state has yet to pass anti-discrimination legislation for individuals based on gender identity and expression. If our government is truly concerned about jobs, Congress will pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and New York will pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, to allow that no one faces unjust discrimination from employment. Equally important is the need for LGBTQ-inclusive immigration reform, as no American should ever have to choose between family and country.
I look forward to the day when Martin Luther King’s dream is fully realized, and every woman and man is treated equally in our communities and under the law. I have every faith our nation and world will rise to the task.
Bryan Ball is president of Stonewall Democrats of Western New York.
January 05, 2011
Dear Stonewall Democrat, As our year draws to a close with the signing of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010,” by President Obama, which will effectively end our military’s discriminatory prohibition of gays and lesbians serving openly, the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York reflect on a year filled with many historic and hard fought victories on the path to equality. With your continued support, we look forward to continuing our work together in the year ahead. After the New York State Senate’s 2009 defeat of the Marriage Equality bill, our Stonewall Democrats began 2010 with the goal of attaining the equality from our government that had previously been denied to us. This spring, SDWNY worked with the City of Buffalo’s Common Council to pass domestic partnership legislation. After years of lobbying the Buffalo law-making body, SDWNY members testified in front of the council and personally lobbied our lawmakers on the importance of domestic partner legislation. The result was a victory directly attributed to each and every one of you who worked this issue. Because of you, the City of Buffalo has established a city domestic partner registry, and passed legislation which extends domestic partner benefits to all city employees in same-gender domestic partnerships. This year also saw the long-over due passage of the Dignity for All Students Act. This bill was made a reality by the hard work and dedication of our Stonewall members, and by our representatives Assemblymember Sam Hoyt and Senator Antoine Thompson. Because of this act’s passage, all our New York children will be justly protected from bullying in schools. In 2010, SDWNY also participated in Marriage Equality New York’s Lobby Day, when again we directly lobbied our state legislators on the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community. Always, we have been there to educate our legislators. This election cycle brought us the chance to show at the voting booth the power of our pink votes, and what it means to support or not support our families. WNY sent a strong message with the election of Senator Tim Kennedy, our new representative in the 58th Senate District, who will be a pro-equality vote for GENDA and Marriage where we before had a no vote. Equality saw additional Stonewall victories in the past elections with the reelection of Assemblymember Hoyt, one of the LGBTQ community’s fiercest advocates in Albany, the election of our Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and all three of our endorsed New York State Supreme Court Candidates: Judges Eugene Fahey, Hank Nowak and Catherine Nugent-Panepinto. However, with our great victories came unfortunate defeats. We thank, from the bottom of our hearts, our pro-equality, progressive champion Senator Antoine Thompson for his great service to Western New York. SDWNY promises to hold the new Senator accountable for his actions, as we will the Senate’s new Republican leadership. The last year also brought incredible opportunities for SDWNY. This summer, we were honored to have our Stonewall Democrats chapter represented at two national conferences in Washington, D.C. We traveled to the Democratic National Committee’s Day of Pride and the National Stonewall Democrats conference, and met with activists, representatives from other nation-wide Stonewall chapters, and Congressional and White House staffers on issues of bettering our individual chapters, and working with our Congress to pass our legislative priorities. At the Erie County Democratic Committee’s reorganizational meeting this fall, I personally had the opportunity to address about 1,500 Erie County Democratic Committee members on the work of SDWNY, our pro-equality issues, legislation and candidates. This election saw our community increase our representation on the Erie County Democratic Committee, which is a hugely important way to work and advocate for our pro-equality legislators and candidates. As we begin 2011, I look forward to continuing our great and productive work together as Stonewall Democrats. Our organization as we stand now could not be the force we are without the involvement, activism and support of each and every one of our members. I am proud that our membership has increased in terms of numbers and activism this past year, and anticipate our organization to only grow stronger as we work to achieve the goals of the civil rights movement: Gender Expression Non-Discrimination and Marriage Equality in New York State, and Employment Non-Discrimination and the Uniting American Families Act at the federal level. Without you, the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York would not be what we are. I thank you for your support and involvement, and look forward to working together in the year to come. Sincerely,
Bryan BallPresidentStonewall Democrats of Western New York
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The Stonewall Democrats of Western New York are thrilled to announce our support of Robin Wilt for State Senate in the 56th Senate District. Robin Wilt is a phenomenal progressive voice who will bring a desperately needed fresh perspective to Albany. The daughter of Caribbean-American parents who immigrated to the United States from Guyana, Wilt has throughout her career been a dedicated, hard-working citizen and activist. In 2006, Robin Wilt joined a local MoveOn.org group in the suburbs of Rochester where she worked to advocate for the renewal of the State Child Health Plus Insurance Program (SCHIP.) Robin is also the co-founder of the Genesee Valley chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, a grassroots organization working to advance progressive causes in the Democratic Party. When she is elected to the New York State Senate, Robin Wilt will further advance our shared progressive causes for New York State by replacing the anti-equality Republican Sen. Joseph Robach. Robin Wilt will be an unfailing champion of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and Marriage Equality, and for that we champion, applaud and will stand for her. Endorsed by both the Monroe County and New York State Democratic Committees, Wilt has the support of New York’s progressive community, with endorsements from NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Marriage Equality New York and the Empire State Pride Agenda. Raised in Pittsford, NY, Robin now resides in Brighton with her husband and three children. For more information and how to get involved, visit www.wiltforsenate.com.
The Stonewall Democrats of Western New York are proud to announce our endorsement of Democrat Cynthia Appleton in the race for New York's 59th Senate District. Cynthia is an accomplished public servant, a proud and strong advocate for justice and equality-- and she will restore that integrity to the office of the 59th District when she is elected this November.
"Cynthia Appleton is a phenomenal candidate," said SDWNY President Bryan Ball. "She is the right person for the job at this time. A true community leader, Cynthia has a strong record of accomplishment, and the right commitment to the reform we so need in Albany. And she knows that true reform and justice consist of our community's equality-- by passing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and Marriage Equality."
Appleton is the the endorsed (and lone) Democrat in the race to represent Erie, Wyoming, Livingston and Ontario counties in the state legislature. She will face the winner of a crowded and ugly Republican primary, which will pit her record of accomplishment and commitment to equality against those of the political party that chooses again and again to deny our community our basic civil rights. Cynthia Appleton is a fantastic advocate for the LGBT community, and the LGBT community of Western New York will be there to support her candidacy and ensure our victory.